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How To Tackle Adversity With Resilience


Growing up in West Belfast during the period known as The Conflict, I wasn’t aware of how events were shaping my future identity. It was during these times that violence, murders, hijackings, punishment shootings, and all-round chaos were a daily part of life. We didn’t know any different as children, so we thought it was normal. We loved the spirit, kindness, and empathy of neighbours, who had very little but were always assisting each other through difficult times. How times have changed.

These were exciting times (I know some will find that difficult to hear) but there was always something happening that got your pulse racing. You were always in a high state of alertness, as the community had a thinly veiled cloud of tension that just hung in the air. You developed a set of skills that only exist in working-class communities. Today these skills are known as Street Smarts, and most kids from West Belfast during that period possess these by the lorry load. You can’t teach these skills through a training course, it’s the environment that shapes them.

We loved nothing better than coming home from school and going straight out into the middle of the chaos. Back then we had no laptops, smartphones, PlayStations, tablets, or Netflix to fill our time. You had a football, 2 jumpers, and your friends to occupy your day. The games were brilliant also: 2 manhunt, tunnel of boots, tippy tag, knock the doors, kissy catch, skipping (or jump rope)– yes boys did that also– and just plain old street races. We loved nothing better than climbing through empty houses and exploring. If you were really lucky, you could attend a roller disco or jump onto Micky Marley’s roundabout. Our games of hide-and-seek were legendary (I still can’t find my friend Ciaran after 35 years).

These were the days of outside toilets and showers (unless you had a few quid), where going to the toilet at night would equip you for Navy Seals training. Times were difficult for everyone, but in that difficulty grew a resolve, determination, grit, and resilience that taught us that no matter what challenges we faced, we would break through them.

So what is Resilience?

“Resilience concerns the ability to bounce back. It involves doing well against the odds, coping and recovering”

These ten rules are based on experiences I have encountered during my life when faced with challenges, failures, and situations, where grit and resilience pushed me through.

1. The Power of Accepting Challenge

You need to identify your strengths in how you handle adversity. We all face challenges daily, it’s how you absorb them internally that enables a strong mentality to be developed. Through most of my life, I can recall challenges both personally and professionally that have not only shaped me, but harnessed a mental strength that I can use to chart a way forward. Think back to when you used your thoughts to change emotions and drive behaviours to take action that benefitted you. Why did Albert the butler always ask, “Why do we fall down Master Bruce?” in Batman? If you can see up, you can get up.

2. The Power of Commitment

There is a range of variables that come together to make you take action. Once you get dedicated to a cause or an end goal, there is an invisible force that drives you internally. You see nothing but that desired outcome, and you will find the persistence, drive, and motivation to push toward it, no matter what barriers stand in your way. When you commit to anything, you don’t see barriers, obstacles, or walls that will stop you from reaching the end goal. So, leave the negative talk where it belongs and set intentions to drive yourself forward at all costs.

3. The Power of Change

If there’s one area of life that is always constant, it’s that change is inevitable. The journey through life will always bring change, be it positive or negative. If you learn to see change as an opportunity for learning and growth it will serve you well. How many times have you moved house? Changed jobs? Got into conflict with family members? Lost a loved one? Got smacked in the face? Faced a traumatic event? The events are endless and it’s what you do with them that determines how you grow.

4. The Power of Learning

The ability to embrace the mindset of constant learning is crucial. You need to drop the ego and become self-aware. To become the most successful and enriched you can be, you need to learn new skills and knowledge. How often do you read? Do you work on your personal development? Do you take professional development courses? Do you watch inspirational programs that will inspire you? Do you read history? All these areas help you grow yourself and be a person of value to your kids, partner, community, and colleagues.

5. The Power of Gratitude

Even those living in poverty or dealing with immense pressure have reasons to be thankful. Now you might say, what the f**k are you talking about? So let me explain. If you have access to the basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing, these form your initial pillars. Do you have clean water, access to education, local parks, television, and local services such as sports facilities or youth clubs? Are you healthy? Are your children healthy? Do you have a job or access to welfare services? If you always think from a position of lack, then lack is what you always attract to you. Why? It dominates your thoughts to drive behaviours of always operating from a position of, “I have nothing.” You need to be grateful for what you do have, then switch focus on what you want, and how you will get it.

6. The Power of No

To be the best you can be, you need to look after yourself first. There are problems in everyone’s lives and you want to solve them. However, you need to operate from a position of knowing what you can do before reaching out. Get clear both Physiologically and Psychologically on your talents, skills, gifts, and traits so assisting others can be achieved. However, it’s fine to sometimes say No, as you need to manage your time to live your life.

7. The Power of Silence

Life can come at you from many angles. You must take time out daily to reflect, gather your thoughts, or just be still. You can use relaxing music, wait until everyone leaves the house, use the local park or beachfront if you live beside one. You need to get comfortable with being in your thoughts, and manipulating them for your benefit. This will be difficult at the outset, but practice daily for 21 days and it will start to form a habit.

8. The Power of Self-Care

You need to look after your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. To do this, look at what you eat and at what times, how much sleep you get, the amount of exercise or physical activity you get, the volume of alcohol you consume, and how you start your mornings and end your days. Do you meditate, practice mindfulness, give gratitude, or speak affirmations? All these things can improve your way of life by harnessing positive habits and routines. This is not some self-help B.S. that you can’t practice. These are real-life solutions you can.

9. The Power of Networks

We all possess networks around us, should they be friends, family, colleagues, or partners. The resilient mind knows when to access these networks to assist them. These networks can provide alternative views, and challenge your thinking and beliefs. You need to talk openly about some of the issues you may be experiencing, which help you reframe a point of reference based on your past experiences. It is paramount you call upon these views when you need them.

10. The Power of Inspiration

Do you remember watching a movie, reading a book, or hearing a story of courage that tugged on every emotion you have? We all have these stories, we just don’t communicate them to great effect. What have you done in your life that will inspire others? These don’t have to be great feats of achievement where you have gone from welfare to millionaire in one year. These are skills that have let you navigate the most difficult of situations and come out on the other side.

Everywhere We Go?

Now this song brings me back to where we started, in West Belfast. We sang this song after we fought the next street in pitch battles with fists and stones (no weapons required, and all friendly afterward). We sang this song after a riot (or recreational play as we called it). We sang this song when we had witnessed violence. The song represented a sense of place, pride, community, and spirit, even under the most difficult circumstances in which we lived. It manifested a resilience and grit that we were proud of. It was us against the world, and we were ready to do battle.

Now, almost 30 years since my childhood, these traits, skills, and learning modules have enabled me to sit and write this post. There have been many challenges along the way– too many for this post!– however, no matter what crap has come my way, I have always found a strength to get past it. We are not born with resilience and grit, rather we learn them through circumstances that impact our lives.

Put these ten steps to use for you.

The post was previously published on Medium.

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